Up ahead I can make out a coyote strolling across the highway. I rolled off the throttle as she paused to give me a good look before padding over to the shoulder where she sat and watched as I thumped by. This far out in the middle of lonesome Nevada most coyotes are skittish, odd this one showed such an interest. I figured it to be good medicine. I was off for a two week trip that I'd mostly make up as I went. The only goal in mind was to reach the Big Bend National Park down on the Rio Grande. Between home and there I figured to explore the country. I'm a big fan of westerns, currently working through all Louis L'amours books, again. Most of them are set somewhere in the southwest and he usually adds a short note that fills you in on the actual people and places the story was built around. For years I've just wanted to go out and find some of those places and this figured to be as good a time as any to get it done. So that morning I'd loaded up the KLR and headed for Pioche, a 450 mile run. That's about a seven hour run with a KLR and after packing the bike I still had nine hours of daylight to do it in. Out on the highway I'm running over my road song in my head - Just a ridin', a ridin', desert rippling in the sun Mountains blue along the skyline, who can envy anyone When I'm ridin' Just a ridin', a ridin', who could envy kings and czars When the coyotes down the valley are a singing to the stars While I'm ridin' Its a little bit of cowboy poetry someone put to music, but it feels like a motorcycle song when it starts talking - Just a ridin', a ridin', spliting long cracks in the air Stiring up a baby cyclone, ripping up the prickly pear When I'm ridin' Between this and singing old Gene Autrey tunes it doesn't take long to set the ride's mood as I'm rolling across the Nevada Landscape. It may be a motorcycle, but in my mind I'm just a kawboy, a lone drifting rider. On US50 I'm mostly following the old Pony Express Trail and I drift off thinking what it was like in those days. But for the highway, things haven't changed that much out here. I wonder if coyotes ever gave the express riders the curious stare I got? Most folks have this idea that all Nevada looks like I80 or Vegas, but you get off the beaten paths and there is some handsome country of these endless valleys rimmed by high mountains. The valleys are covered in sage, rabbit brush, desert peach, bitter brush. It looks dry, but you see coyotes, mustangs, pronghorns and they must be ranging from waterholes we don't see. In the spring and fall its easier to spot the water by the cottonwoods and quakies growing around it. Its good cattle country. Most the valleys have spots the ranchers can mow hay for winter feed, just need a lot land to run them. All day long I pass working cowboys starting the fall round up or fixing fences on the winter range. And they all waved howdy. And when you tire of being a cowboy, you can always look at those mountains and start wondering how high they were before most of them melted into the valleys. Back when these mountains were formed, these valleys were deep fault lines. Eons of rain have washed the tops of the mountains into these clefts until they have filled to become these broad flats. Look at the side of the hills and you can see this still happening today in the alluvial fans spreading out from the mouth of every canyon. And it's all that uplift that explains how you find water in Nevada. The water seeps underground until it meets the face of an uplift that is impermeable to water, and there it pools and seeps out as a spring. In the old west, getting through country like this was mostly understanding how the wildlife ranged out from a water hole and then finding the animals to find the water. This is how my rides go. The ride is just the stage my thoughts play out on. A habit I picked up from learning about real cowboys. Listen to a real cowboy long enough and he'll eventually get around to talking about the pleasures of being out in some of god's finest country with nothing but your own thoughts. A cowboy may have been short on book learning, but it didn't mean he was short on smarts. He had the time to chew on something long enough to usually come up with the right answer. On this trip I hoped to connect somehow with the old west and mull on what it was like for them, in those days. If it sounds like an interesting journey, come along for the next few days as I blog this thing out, with pictures - I skipped the picture taking this day but I nearly filled a 1GB memory card so I've got pictures. Anyway, I made Pioche just short of dark. All I knew was there were three hotels in town. The first was for sale, the second looked like small town dive, but the last was the Overland Hotel. They had but one room, three beds, $85. Wasn't really a room, but a suite. It had a sitting room, a dressing parlor, a bathroom and the two beds in one room and the king bed in another, each with its own TV. And clean. And, as a perk, the bar is just downstairs. Definitely recommend this, think $85 split 3 ways for a great room. After going across the street to the local dinner for a meal I enjoyed many a glass of muscle relaxant before going upstairs to plan the next day. After mulling over the possibilities within 300 miles of Pioche I settled on heading for the Robbers Roost, a favorite haunt of Butch Cassidy. It will take me a day to get there, and then I can use a free day to go explore the Roost. And we will get to the Roost tomorrow. And, here's a view of Pioche from the south - In its hay day Pioche was known to be the baddest of the bad mining camps. While I didn't have the time on this trip, Pioche lies in the heart of an old mining district. There are a dozen old ghost towns. It would be real easy to spend a couple of days playing on the dirt roads out here.